ashland.news
June 13, 2024

Jackson County Circuit Court unveils new jury summons, self-guided portal

A jury box in Jackson County Circuit Court. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
February 6, 2024

Juror eResponse allows residents to complete juror forms and opt-in for text or email notifications and reporting instructions

By Kevin OpsahlRogue Valley Times

Jackson County Circuit Court has begun to roll out a new system to make it easier for residents to navigate jury selection and service.

On Jan. 22, the court started mailing jury summonses in the form of postcards, which direct prospective jurors to a new online portal system that allows them to communicate with court officials.

“We were trying to find a system that works better for jurors where it wasn’t paper-intensive,” said Tina Qualls, trial court administrator for Jackson County Circuit Court. “The jury system that we were using was not as efficient as the system that we’re bringing on board.”

The court previously mailed summonses in a brochure that came in an envelope. The new postcard contains a QR code that prospective jurors can scan with their phones to take them to the portal.

“A lot of people are familiar with how to use that,” Qualls said.

The portal, known as Juror eResponse, allows residents to complete juror forms; opt-in for text or email notifications and reporting instructions; obtain an attendance slip for their service; and request deferral or excusals.

“We understand that people might be a little confused by the system, but we’re hoping that the online portal is much easier for them,” Qualls said.

She hopes that when prospective jurors use the portal, they have an easier time waiting at the courthouse to be called for jury service. 

Residents who receive a jury summons and do not have internet access can complete a questionnaire when they report for jury service, Qualls noted.

She said prospective and selected jurors can always call the court if they have any trouble navigating the portal.

“I would imagine that we’re going to receive a lot of phone calls with the new system because it’s new,” Qualls said. 

She said the first pool of jury summonses totaled between 500 and 600.

Jackson County Circuit Court didn’t make the upgrades to its juror communication system on its own. It was the brainchild of the Oregon Judicial Department, which oversees state courts.

Sarah Evans, communications coordinator for OJD, said the department felt in 2022 that it was time to “refresh and modernize what we were doing” internally to track the issuing of jury summonses and other initiatives under its responsibility.

OJD selected Texas-based Tyler Technologies, a software provider catering to the public sector, to help implement a new system.

“One of the things that comes with the new system we purchased that we didn’t have available before is this online portal for jurors,” Evans said. 

Jackson County Circuit Court is part of the second phase of statewide implementation for the new system, according to Evans. State courts can choose not to use the new postcard system, but Jackson County court decided to opt in.

“We’re always looking for ways that we can make the jury experience easier for people,” Evans said. “When you actually talk to folks who have served on juries, often, we hear feedback that they really loved the experience. … that maybe it wasn’t as intimidating or maybe it made them feel more comfortable by learning how the courts work.”

Qualls said she is confident the new system won’t have bugs that the court can’t work through. 

“I believe that this is going to be a good system,” she said. 

To prospective jurors, Qualls added, “jury service is very important, so please read your summons, please show up for jury service and complete the paperwork.”

The Oregon Juror Handbook states that the court may issue an order requiring a prospective juror to appear if they ignore a summons. Anyone may be held in contempt of court if they ignore that order. But prospective jurors can avoid contempt if they make a request for a deferral or be excused via the Juror eResponse Portal, by email or mail, and have it approved by the court.

For more information about jury service in Jackson County Circuit Court, log onto courts.oregon.gov/courts/Jackson.

Reporter Kevin Opsahl can be reached at 458-488-2034 or kopsahl@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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